After Shya Scanlon’s reading tonight (which I thought was a tremendous success) I spoke with the recently debearded David Peak (and no, he’s not a mussel) and Chris Heavener (Have you picked up a copy of Annalemma’s gorgeous issue #5, yet?), and one of the things that David brought up was William Gass’s On Being Blue, Gass’s dazzling reverie on the color blue, the imagination, eros, and creativity. After gushing about that book I mentioned Theroux’s various sprawling essays on colors collected in two volumes: The Primary Colors: Three Essays and The Secondary Colors: Three Essays. (Theroux supposedly has an unpublished manuscript on black and white sitting in a drawer somewhere. Will somebody please publish it already?) I’d also mentioned Krzysztof Kieślowski’s amazing trilogy of films Blue, White, and Red. And David brought up William T. Vollman’s The Rainbow Stories.
So what are your thoughts about the abovementioned books and films? And what are some other works, e.g., poems, films, stories, books, songs, etc., that are sustained meditations on a specific color? There must be a slew of them.
11 thoughts on “Colors and Such”
Gass’s book just depresses me. (Waits for laughter…)
Derek Jarman’s final film BLUE, that is a pleasure. And any artwork by Yves Klein, particularly his paintings of the ultramarine category—those, too, are a cheer and a comfort, I will attest.
(Back to AT SWIM-TWO-BIRDS…)
I have to see that Jarman! My library doesn’t have it. Ugh.
And yes, I’d forgotten Klein, not to mention many of the color field painters. Oh, there’s Robert Ryman’s white paintings (although with him I think of his work as a meditation on brushstrokes). And there’s Gerhard Richter’s monochrome gray panels. Ad Reinhardt has some monochromes, too.
Forgot to mention Picasso’s Blue and Rose periods.
On the lips
On the eyes
Our name will be forgotten
No one will remember our work
Our life will pass like the traces of a cloud
And be scattered like
Mist that is chased by the
Rays of the sun
For our time is the passing of a shadow
And our lives will run like
Sparks through the stubble.
I place a delphinium, Blue, upon your grave
i haven’t read or seen any of these. but i’m intrigued. maybe i’ll write a meditation on not seeing color. ya know. one day.
That would be awesome. I’m sure someone has written something about being colorblind, but you should do so, too…
I’ve been told that I’m slightly colorblind, but I don’t see it.
Have you ever been tested for to determine the clinical form of your color blindness?
really glad you posted this, john. i was thinking about this a lot last night. the one book that came to mind after i left was crime and punishment–the prominence of the color yellow, how the color haunts/covers/infests nearly every surface throughout the story.
when done well, i think, this sort of thing can have a marvelous affect.
For fun, I just downloaded Crime and Punishment and found that yellow is used 41 times in the novel. This doesn’t include yellow things like flowers, birds, etc., that might also show up in it. There must be an essay on this out there.
I think that the color yellow in Russia during Dostoevsky’s time was associated with mental illness and suffering. And I just confirmed with a friend that “zhloty dom” (spelling?) the Russian word for lunatic asylum literally means “yellow house.”
I forgot to mention Kate Braverman’s obsession with blue and her books Squandering the Blue and Desert Blues.
Here she is talking about the color:
Find the rest HERE.
maggie nelson’s bluets
I didn’t know this one. How is it?